“Get Smart” Offers Up Consistent Hilarity

PG-13, 110 minutes, Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ve never watched a single second of the television series on which this new film version of Get Smart is based on, so I had no images or thoughts to go back and compare its modern remake with. One thing that I was guaranteed of by my father, though, is that Steve Carell was a spot-on choice for the lead character of Maxwell Smart, from look to demeanor it was all there and they couldn’t have made a better decision. Once again, I can only judge the casting choice based on my appreciation for an actor’s body of work and sense of humor in a role like this, and the Carell choice easily helped me decide that I did in fact want to see Get Smart, because he always manages to bring a witty feel to anything he takes part in. There was also the clever fashioning of a rather enticing trailer that had been playing for many months before the film’s release, and also a worthy supporting cast – minus Dwayne Johnson, who still had yet to prove himself before this project. I was surprised that there were plenty of reasons to get me in a seat to see this one, and little did I know at the time of seeing it in late June, that I would come to absolutely adore this film.

Besides Carell’s outstanding portrayal of Maxwell Smart, what lies at the forefront of this film’s smash success are two key things. One major factor is that its director, Peter Segal, who is no stranger to comedic projects, finally finds all the right notes and is at the top of his game. Almost ten films into his career, Segal has been consistent in his ups and downs, but it is in the films where he gets a dynamite lead performance (Farley in Tommy Boy) or terrific chemistry (Sandler and Barrymore in 50 First Dates)  where they become recommendable. He has had to rely on the talent of his cast to make his films fly to this point in his career, otherwise they turn into duds like My Fellow Americans and Anger Management, with material so bad that not even legends like Matthau, Lemmon, and Nicholson can overcome. Finally, though, with Get Smart, his eighth film, Segal not only receives a great cast, he orchestrates them all extremely well, resulting in one of the best comedies of the year. It’s certainly the most worthwhile comedy of 2008 that’s under an R rating.

Among the cast of players that are so rightly used throughout this hysterical film, are Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, the aforementioned  Dwayne Johnson (who does manage to find the right notes and become likable for once), Terrence Stamp, James Caan, David Koechner, Kevin Nealon, Larry Miller, and the incomparable Bill Murray, who has the smallest screen time possible but uses it well. Everyone in the movie works off of each other and the material about as well as you could hope for and beyond, but what comes as the biggest surprise of the entire thing, at least for me, is how Hathaway holds her ground alongside Carell. This is the second key factor in the movie’s ability to flow so well. Hathaway is now proving that she is ready to transition into a diverse actress, and in Get Smart she is not fooling around. She is arguably the best part of this film, although it’s hard to argue against Carell. Let’s just say that the two together are comic chemistry gold. 2008 is going to prove to be the launching point for an inevitable longevity in Hathaway’s career, because later this fall it looks like Jonathan Demme has given her a dramatic breakout role in Rachel Getting Married. If you haven’t heard of it yet, check out the trailer here. I saw this film twice on the big screen, and I consider it a comedy very worthy of seeing even more than that. Pretty much everything goes right here, and it’s a pleasure to sit back and enjoy.



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